COLUMBUS — The sample size is growing for Ohio State.
It’s still nowhere near large enough for the Buckeyes to make any kind of meaningful decisions at quarterback. And truthfully there might still be some uncertainty for Ryan Day about what he has at the position until after those guys actually play a game.
So, having a fifth practice to evaluate on Monday morning is certainly another chance to monitor progress at the most important position on the roster. But beyond that, the Buckeyes are barely even scratching the surface with three guys who have never thrown a pass at the collegiate level — and haven’t even installed the third-down package yet.
“You can’t win the job in one day,” Day said after practice on Monday. “You can’t with the job with one throw, either. You have to just build over time, and that’s important to understand. It’s easy when you’re young to try to force the action and try to win the job, and it doesn’t come that way.
“It comes over time with a body of work. That body of work is being built.”
That process has been underway on the practice field for a total of of 10 days this spring, and the Buckeyes are in no rush to determine a pecking order between C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller and Kyle McCord.
But it’s still the most intriguing storyline of camp Ohio State, and it was a hot topic during Day’s half-hour press conference with the media at the one-third mark of spring practices. Lettermen Row is diving into a few more key takeaways now with What We Learned from Ryan Day about the Buckeyes.
Buckeyes work methodically with quarterbacks
Physically there’s no question that C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller and Kyle McCord have the tools to lead Ohio State at quarterback. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have been recruited in the first place.
But there’s far more involved in the process than just arm strength and athleticism, and the Buckeyes aren’t going to simply throw the entire playbook at an early enrollee like McCord or even second-year passers like Stroud and Miller.
“I think they all share that they’re doing some things for the first time,” Day said. “We’re still on first and second down. We start installing third down on Wednesday, and then we can start getting into move-its and situational things. So, they all throw the ball well, the ball comes out of their hands well, they still need to work on consistency in those areas and the different things fundamentally and technique-wise throwing it. They certainly all throw it good enough now. Decision-making, timing, consistency, vision, anticipation — those are all the things that come into play.
“In the end: Who takes care of the ball? A guy who turns the ball over isn’t going to last very long as the quarterback at Ohio State. Those are the things we’ll have to figure out.”
Ohio State working through injuries for starters
There are always two ways to look at spring-camp situations, and Ohio State has little choice but to look at the silver linings that come with having projected starters limited or unavailable until the summer.
Yes, it’s a tough pill to swallow potential first-team options like middle linebacker Dallas Gant, cornerback Cameron Brown, center Harry Miller or defensive tackle Haskell Garrett are missing a second-consecutive spring of developmental reps. But the flip side is that the Buckeyes can use those snaps to possibly bolster the depth with younger guys pushing for action — knowing that eventually those upperclassmen will be ready for training camp.
“It’s a shame, but that is also football,” Day said. “Whether it’s an injury or COVID, these are types of things you have to work through and everybody has their own journey along the way. You try not to dwell on it. You don’t like it. You hate it, drives you nuts, keeps you up at night. But we’re just going to have to push through it.
“The good news is there are a lot of guys healthy and practicing. The effort has been excellent, the focus on fundamentals and technique has been excellent. In the end, that’s what it’s going to come down to: Effort, fundamentals and technique. That’s the foundation we’re building, and we’ll keep going from there. It’s a shame some of these guys won’t be able to do it, but we’ll just try to get them healthy as fast as we can and get them into practice in preseason.”
Cade Stover generating spring excitement for Buckeyes
Perhaps the most important under-the-radar position battle is the second tight end spot for Ohio State given its prevalence in the offense and Luke Farrell’s reliability a year ago. The favorite in that race is clear, and Cade Stover appears to be making the most of his opportunity.
But after not getting a spring or a normal season to contribute off the bench last season, there is still plenty of work to be done for the intriguing, physical talent.
“[Stover] worked really hard this past year,” Day said. “But he’s like a lot of these guys who didn’t have a spring last spring, didn’t have much of a preseason and then played behind Luke and [Jeremy Ruckert] last year, so he didn’t have a lot of game experience.
“This is a big spring for him. This is the time. He’s got to really step up now, and I think he’s poised to do that now. I think he’s had a good offseason, so now we’ll see how this spring goes. But we’re excited about what we see.”
Lathan Ransom continuing momentum for Ohio State
Lathan Ransom was never planning to have a spring camp with the Buckeyes, so it’s hard to view the cancellation a year ago as much of a setback for him personally.
But now that he has a full one after surging late in his freshman year even with all the practice restrictions in place, expectations are soaring for what the second-year safety could provide in the secondary. No jobs are being definitely won or lost at this point, but Ransom is emerging as a potential leader for the role as the cover safety as he keeps building on a few key plays made in the postseason as a freshman.
“He really came on for us and played well, especially in the semifinal against Clemson,” Day said. “Really competed. He showed that he could do that in practice, so because of that he had an opportunity to do it. It was hard last year because we just didn’t have a lot of those games where we could throw some of those guys in there and find out. When he was in the game, he hadn’t done a whole bunch leading into the end of the year. But to see him play like that was very encouraging.”